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Employee engagement surveys: how and why to measure engagement

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With all the recent talk about the Great Resignation and the quiet quitting trend, it’s clear that many employees are not engaged. Are yours? Unfortunately, some business leaders may be unaware of the problem until productivity drops and turnover surges. Employee engagement surveys can help you stay ahead of situations.

Why You Need to Measure Employee Engagement

Are your workers actually invested in their work, or are they just going through the motions? When we talk about employee engagement, this question is at the heart of what we want to know.

It’s reasonable to assume that workers who are enthusiastic about their work are more likely to do their best and produce optimal results. Engaged employees may also be more likely to stay in their positions and seek internal advancement. On the other hand, employees who are just clocking in for a paycheck may be inclined to coast or do the least amount of work necessary to keep their jobs. They may also be likely to quit.

Based on this, it seems likely that high employee engagement rates should translate into high productivity and retention, whereas low engagement rates may correlate with reduced productivity and high turnover.

Research backs up these assumptions. Gallup1 found that, compared to businesses with low employee engagement, businesses with high employee engagement have 81 percent less absenteeism, 18 percent higher sales productivity, 43 percent less turnover in low-turnover organizations, 18 percent less turnover in high-turnover organizations, and 23 percent greater profitability.

Employee Engagement Levels Are Low

Since employee engagement can impact a company’s bottom line, it’s an important metric. Unfortunately, the numbers haven’t been good recently.

According to Gallup2, employee engagement has been on the decline, a trend that started in late 2021. In 2022, only 32 percent of U.S. employees are engaged, down from 36 percent in 2020. Additionally, 17 percent of U.S. employees are actively disengaged, up from 14 percent in 2020.

To make matters worse, many business leaders may be oblivious to the problems at their organizations. There can be a big disconnect between what managers and other business leaders think and what the average workers think about the employee experience. A report from Global Web Index and Vimeo3 found that 44 percent of executives are confident their company can maintain employee engagement, but only 25 percent of non-executives agree.

This is where employee engagement surveys come in. Instead of just assuming that everything is fine with their team members, employers can conduct employee engagement surveys and measure employee engagement to find out exactly how employees feel.

What does an employee engagement survey look like?

Employee engagement surveys are given to employees on an anonymous basis to measure engagement levels across the company.

Many of the employee engagement questions will be yes/no questions. However, since issues aren’t always black and white, it may be helpful to use a scale. Survey Monkey4 recommends the Likert scale to measure opinions or attitudes with more nuance. The Likert scale provides five or seven possible answers, with one option that is neutral.

A regular yes/no question might look like this:

Do you find your work meaningful?

  • Yes
  • No

A version of this question using the Likert scale might look like this:

My work is meaningful.

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Neither Agree nor Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree

In addition to yes/no or scale questions, it’s helpful to have at least one open-ended question. This gives employees an opportunity to point out specific problems or make specific suggestions. You may find some of the greatest insights and employee feedback in the answers to open-ended questions.

Employee Engagement Survey Questions

Many employee surveys start with demographic questions to cover things like the employee’s position, salary and time at the company. This information can help organizations determine whether they’re doing better with some groups of workers than others. Most of the survey questions will focus on engagement, however, since that’s the entire point of the survey.

It’s also important to ask the right number of questions. If you ask too many, your survey will start to feel like the SAT and, ironically, employees may become disengaged. At the same time, if you ask too few questions, you might not receive enough information.

Questions may address whether workers:

  • Understand their position and what’s expected of them
  • Feel valued and praised
  • Think their work is meaningful
  • Believe their boss helps them to succeed
  • Think there are advancement opportunities

The survey should also ask what concerns or suggestions employees have.

Employee Engagement Survey Examples

If you’re looking for examples of the best employee engagement survey questions, check out the following resources:

  • Gallup5 has created a survey with 12 questions.
  • Gartner6 has identified nine questions to include in every employee engagement survey.
  • Survey Monkey7 has an employee engagement template.

Anonymity and Employee Engagement Surveys Best Practices

Your employees probably have some pretty strong opinions about your company, but they may not be willing to share these opinions. This is especially true when employees are unhappy. They may not want to complain if they think there’s any chance their answers will be linked to them and then used against them.

As SHRM8 explains, most employee engagement surveys include demographic questions. Although these questions can help managers put responses in context and identify trends, they may also make it easy to figure out who’s answering, especially at smaller companies.

This is a big problem. If employees aren’t answering survey questions honestly, the entire survey is undermined. Therefore, it’s important to reassure employees that their responses will not be used against them. Showing that the results will be processed by someone other than the employees’ boss – for example, the HR department or even a third-party company – may help alleviate some concerns.

Reacting to Employee Engagement Survey Results

Once the results are in, the real work begins. The survey responses can help business leaders identify problems and take action to boost engagement. For example, depending on the results you receive to the survey questions, your company may need to provide more feedback to employees, increase incentives for good work, communicate more about what you’re doing, address company culture or create more opportunities for career advancement and career development.

If employee engagement surveys are done repeatedly – for example, every year – the results can also provide an internal benchmark that shows employee engagement trends. This can indicate whether the company is improving, getting worse or treading water when it comes to engagement.

The Link Between Employee Engagement and HR Services

Strong employee engagement can help your company thrive, but your company’s HR team may be spread too thin to make engagement the priority it deserves to be. Our HR services can help you grow your business while meeting the needs of your workers. We provide HR outsourcing, HR consulting and payroll services.

Not sure where to start? Talk to someone who wants to listen.

A great plan starts with a conversation. Let’s talk about what you need.

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